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This collection of illustrated
stories by Phoebe Gloeckner seem to draw on her own experience as an abused and
delinquent teenager growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s. The young women she portrays have a similar
history to the girl she describes and draws in her novel The Diary of a
Teenage Girl (reviewed in Metapsychology February 2005). Many of the stories feature Minnie, which is
also the name of the teenage girl in Gloeckner's novel. Many of the stories are explicit and
shocking: even as a young girl, Minnie is drawn in a sexualized way, and her
mother's boyfriend is always acting inappropriately in her presence, while her
mother makes no objections and blames Minnie if there's trouble. "Minnie's 3rd Love" shows Minnie
in 1976 as a confused teenager on Polk Street, San Francisco, hanging out with
other messed up teens and older people, getting drunk and taking drugs, being
used, and making many mistakes. Other
stories have similar themes, showing other people in similar situations, or
tell similar stories from different perspectives in different styles. Many of them are sexually explicit and
disturbing in their power to evoke not only the pain of abuse but how Minnie
gets so drawn to people who will hurt her.
Gloeckner's drawing is very
distinctive with its bold lines and strong faces, especially striking for their
large eyes staring at the reader. She
has an MA in Medical Illustration, and some of her most powerful pictures
collected at the end of the book employ this skill, showing men and women's
bodies in cross-section, both sexualized and corpse-like. Her covers for J.G. Ballard's The
Atrocity Exhibition and the groundbreaking
Angry Women may be familiar to some readers.
One of the darking images is a self-portrait showing her skin rotting
and covered with boils, entitled "Self-portrait with Pemphigus
Vulgaris." It's a remarkable
collection of work exploring female adolescent sexuality, victimization and
cruelty, showing women not just as passive vessels used by men, but also as
actively participating in hurting other people. This is remarkable work and is among the best graphic illustration
available today. Highly recommended.
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
Link: Phoebe Gloeckner web page
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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